In the “Black Room”, Robin had chosen to pair the Quads with electronics from DNM Design. The 3D Six Preamplifier ($14,500 — MM phono adds $1,500, additional inputs add $300 each, clear plexi case adds $300) is an exercise in sonic transparency: “At this time remote control is not possible, there are no micro-processors, no software, nothing that is not linked with optimising sound quality.” The design, as far as I understand it, expands into a 3-D topology in order to minimize reflection, signal path, and interferences. Of obvious note, there is not a whole lot of metal in or on this box — again, the assumption is that metal can interfere and degrade. Mono settings and a headphone out complete the package.
The PA3S stereo amplifier ($7,750), rated at 23 watts per channel, is likewise unusual in its approach. From the website:
DNM worked hard to understand and control these new design parameters because the potential rewards are great, for example– a class AB transistor design that can outperform a single ended triode or a class A transistor amplifier. This new DNM power amplifer design gives more power, higher sound quality, cooler running with increased reliability and much longer operating life–all important factors for customers who want the best sound and practical hi-fi at home.
To achieve this the PA3 uses an all-new three-dimensional circuit with ultra-tight control of its feedback surrounded by new magnetically neutral materials technology to improve dynamics and reduce the sonic signature of the amplifier’s structure. This is a significant advance on conventional amplifier designs, which use flat printed circuit boards with circuits that must be tortuously routed in two-dimensions, that ignore the adverse effects of circuit generated magnetic fields and their reaction with the metal in the structure….
….PA3S is the first design in the world to use the revolutionary new T-Network capacitor designed by DNM’s Denis Morecroft.
The PA3S uses multiple power supply control to emulate battery operation — a form of AC regulation and a unique DC regulator system to feed ultra-smooth, ripple free power to the amplifier circuits. It also utilises the same three-dimensional board layouts used in the PA3 to control the magnetic performance of the circuits.
Also in the rack was the excellent rosewood-clad $30k Classic Direct Drive from VPI, which leverages mag-lev tech in its torque-generating mechanism and comes with the new 3-D printed 12″ JMW tonearm. This table is so very sexy! Details from VPI:
- Direct drive with no mechanical contact in the horizontal plane. The lowest noise drive and bearing design architecture possible.
- A precision inverted bearing and PEEK bearing surface for minimum friction.
- Servo controlled with an active feedback loop that measures and controls the speed of the platter directly to yield the most consistent and accurate playback possible.
- A high mass billet aluminum platter weighing 18 lbs (8 Kg).
- Speed accuracy of .01% or 5 Sigma from 33.3 RPM and from 45.0 RPM.
- A proprietary non-cogging drive system that uses the platter as the rotor and a printed circuit board stator.
- A ½” thick machined aluminum plate bonded to 2″ of MDF creating a plinth which is so massive and well damped it virtually eliminates resonance.
Sopraino Super Tweeters were present in the room, but not in use while I was there. DNM cabling was used throughout.
Flipping over to the “White Room”, the more familiar Miyajima OTL mono blocks $18.5k/pair) driving the Quads, paired up with the massive Wo-1 preamplifier ($18.5k). This gear looks at least as vintage as the Quads are, but like the Quads, don’t sound like it. The build quality is out of this world, and fairly screams “touch me”. Given that the amps at least are OTL tubes, this enticement would probably lead to painful realization, but the urge was nonetheless there.
A Zontek turntable mounted with two enormous 14.5″ tonearms sat atop the rack in this room, where I found TelWire‘s Chris Kline (his superlative interconnects, speaker cables and power cords were used throughout this room) was speed-checking the table when I arrived. Miyajima cartridges allowed both for stereo (Shilabe for $2,995) and mono (Zero Mono, for $1,995) playback.
A word about the sound.
In either room, the overall presentation was more similar than different — the liquidity of excellent vinyl playback came through with brilliant clarity and an immediacy that made me break out in a cold sweat with thoughts of plunder and mayhem. Either system would have me emptying my kids’ college funds, which is a bad thing, but for a good while there, I was really sure I would have been able to explain it to them. Heh.
Where things separated, for me, was along stereotypical lines. I think that the DNM+VPI system was able to inscribe the lines with just a tad more authority, more linearity and more power, while the Miyajima+Zontek system was just a tad more saturated, even if it was softer in its portrayals. At the risk of abusing tropes, the DNM system was a bit more Yang to the Miyajima’s Yin. Or something.
I fully expect that there was a wild divergence of opinion on preferences! But in either case, the reactions that Robin was evoking from these rooms were full of awe, respect, admiration — and flat-out, appallingly naked, wild-eyed lust. And that’s an audio win. Sign me up!